Any thought this new Texas House would be promoting public debate and open participation, as promised by Speaker Joe Straus on taking the gavel, was dashed on Wednesday. The chairman of the House Business & Industry Committee, Joe Deshotel, engaged in the worst kind of heavy-handed, undemocratic behavior imaginable by ramming partisan legislation through in his committee in a manner that shut-out debate and discourse.
While working within the letter of the rules and law, Rep. Deshotel (D-Port Arthur) managed to shut out all public debate on critical legislation. Mr. Deshotel should be ashamed of himself. So should House Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) who appointed him to the committee post.
At issue is House Bill 2623, legislation that would radically alter the state’s unemployment insurance rules – raising taxes, making employment more expensive, and all but unraveling the state’s successful welfare-to-work programs. Not only would benefits be extended and expanded, no longer would people have to seek full-time employment to remain eligible.
This legislation would be bad at any time, but is disastrous in the face of the current economic climate. It represents the very worst kind public policy.
The legislation was to have received a public subcommittee hearing on Wednesday, April 1. At the last minute, Deshotel changed the hearing time, leaving those wishing to testify – for or against – in the dark. Shortly after, Deshotel held a hastily called a meeting and passed the legislation.
Again, no public comment. No debate. No input.
And no criticism. Deshotel knows this radical, partisan legislation cannot withstand the light of day, so he rushed through hoping to avoid criticism. Only State Reps Dan Gattis (R-Georgetown) and Rob Orr (R-Burleson) are reported to have voted against it. (Complete committee list.)
Wonder why people have a low opinion of elected officials? Meet Joe Deshotel and the House Committee on Business & Industry.